Amarin CEO: When it comes to Vascepa expansion, 'we can do this on our own'

Amarin CEO John Thero
Amarin CEO John Thero is confident the drugmaker can capitalize commercially on its flagship drug without major partners. (Amarin)

Amarin’s fish-oil derivative Vascepa has been on a tear lately with a landmark outcomes trial and a $400 million cash raise in its rearview mirror. But taking the drug across the blockbuster plateau could present a challenge for a drugmaker as small as Amarin.

CEO John Thero’s take? We can do this on our own.

After Amarin raised nearly half a billion dollars to fund its commercial expansion of Vascepa as a label expansion decision by the FDA approaches, analysts have questioned whether the drugmaker has the marketing muscle to adequately grow the cardiovascular med’s sales.

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In a second-quarter earnings call with investors Wednesday, Thero said Amarin was prepared to take on the increased demand for Vascepa with a sales hiring goal of 800 employees and a planned direct-to-consumer advertising campaign upon expansion. The drugmaker said the company expects to reach 70,000 to 80,000 healthcare professionals when its sales force is fully fleshed out and is seeing higher-than-expected access to doctors in the meantime.

However, the drugmaker is still keeping itself open to a possible marketing partnership—or buyout—with a large-cap pharma if the opportunity arises.

“We are focusing on that which we can control, which is the aggressive growth of this business, and we are confident that we can do this on our own,” Thero said. “But we’ll always review what choices exist.”

RELATED: Another win for Vascepa: Pricing watchdog ICER calls Amarin's fish-oil pill cost-effective

Vascepa has seen a staggering increase in prescriptions after the drugmaker’s phase 3 readout of its Reduce-It trial showed a 25% cardiovascular risk reduction in patients with abnormally high triglyceride levels. Vascepa scripts jumped more than 75% after data from Reduce-It was released in October, and Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen said those figures could actually be an undershot of how fast the drug is selling.

Instead of opting right away for a buyout, Amarin publicly offered $400 million in stock in early July to help double its sales force and prep for the FDA’s Sept. 28 decision on an expanded label. That cash raise could expand to $460 million if underwriters buy up their allotted shares on top of the public sale.

Vascepa also benefitted from a nod last week from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a U.S. cost watchdog, which said the drug was cost-effective for payers in every scenario the group ran.

RELATED: Amarin's $400M-plus offering put investors on edge. Is a buyout off the table?

With the label expansion decision approaching and perhaps billions in sales on the horizon, Amarin celebrated its first nine-figure quarter Wednesday on the back of booming Vascepa sales.

Amarin said Vascepa raked in $100.4 million in net revenue in the second quarter, a whopping 91% increase over the previous year. Amarin said those sales figures approached the updated top end of its quarterly forecast of $101 million.

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